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    What Are the Best Sources of Drinking Water?

    Here’s what to know about good drinking water.

    Filtered Water continued...

    If you do choose to filter your water, look for filters certified by NSF International. And don’t forget to change the filter on the recommended schedule.

    “Many people are more consistent about changing the oil they put in their cars than the filters on the water they put in their bodies,” says Eric Rosenthal, senior vice president of marketing for Culligan. “They think ‘I’ll just give it another month.’ But after they’ve been in there too long, filters not only don’t work, they start to be worse for the consumer.”

    Bottled Water

    Bottled water has exploded in popularity over the last 10 years. In 1997, Americans drank 13.5 gallons of bottled water per capita annually; by 2007, that number spiked to 29 gallons per capita. In 2007 alone, we spent about $11.5 billion on brands like Dasani, Evian, and Poland Spring.

    But bottled water’s popularity may have reached its peak -- in 2008, there was a 3.8% decline in bottled water revenues, the first in a decade.

    In fact, about 25% of bottled water is simply purified tap water, including two of the most popular brands, Aquafina and Dasani.

    “They contract with municipalities across the country, set up plants, and have a ‘formula’ for their water, so if you buy a bottle of Aquafina in Sacramento, it tastes the same as it does in Dubuque,” Karrh says.

    How can you tell if your bottled water is really from a “pure mountain spring” rather than the filtered product of a municipal water system in another state? Look for the words “spring water” on the label. Bottlers can only claim spring water if their product is verified to be from a spring. (Other bottles will say things like “purified” and “distilled.”)

    Like tap water, bottled water is generally safe to drink, although perceptions of it as “safer” than tap water are unfounded.

    “The difference really is in taste and what you want in the water. A lot of the bottled water in the U.S. comes from the old European model, which adds minerals to the water like sodium or calcium,” Karrh says. “If you’re trying to watch your sodium intake and don’t want that ‘heavy’ taste, you might not want those.”

    “The advantage of municipal water -- whether you filter it or not -- is information. For bottled water, that information is not quite as easy to find,” Mains says. “You don’t get the equivalent of a consumer confidence report on the outside of a bottle of water.”

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